Anxiety  Anxiety

 What is anxiety?

‘Anxiety’  is a normal reaction to stress and can be described as an ‘unpleasant emotional state’. It helps us mobilize our internal forces in order to ‘deal with’ the causative factors of the stress and enable us to focus, change, adapt, rectify, alter etc.; much the same as ‘feeling down, sad & miserable’ is a response to an event, incident or experience. And just as with depression, when it becomes excessive, overpowering and debilitating, affecting our everyday functioning it becomes a disorder or illness, generally requiring intervention & treatment. 

An individual may feel 'anxious' when sitting exams, or a job interview; you may experience symptoms of anxiety before a game of football, particularly one of a 'pivotal' nature, representative game or 'grand final'. In essence, it largely involves a 'fight or flight' response in the body; many symptoms of which are very similar to classic 'anxiety'.

There are a 'multitude' of differing symptoms of anxiety and descriptions for these; far too many to mention here. Suffice to say, they involve every part of our being; physically & psychologically, and in differing levels of intesity.

Two of the 'key' ingredients to both 'Anxiety' as a state experienced & 'Anxiety Disorders' are (1) Fear & (2) Anxiety.

‘Fear’  is defined as an ‘emotional & physiological response to a recognized external threat’. The similarity between ‘fear’ & ‘anxiety’ is rather obvious and frequently used interchangeably, though not at a scientific level. Both are unpleasant emotions and the boundaries of the two can be blurred. Anxiety states can be seen at times as fear and described thus, as can fear exhibit clear signs of anxiety. It is important for diagnostic purposes and efficacy of treatment that we are able to distinguish between them. 


‘Phobias’ are a type of anxiety defined as ‘a persistent or irrational fear’. He we see the clear example of two (2) specific elements – ‘fear & anxiety’. 

               Signs & Symptoms                                                     Anxiety Disorders

  • Chest tightness or 'pounding heart'; palpatations
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Dry mouth &/or throat
  • Sweating
  • Loss of facial colour - 'pale'....or conversely;
  • Blushing; face turning red
  • Dizziness
  • Agitated, 'fidgety', restless
  • Feelings of increased energy or hyperactivity
  • Increased or decreased 'sex drive'
  • Light-headed - feeling you'll 'pass out'
  • Cold chills
  • Difficulty communicating, speaking; lack of coordination of mouth & tongue
  • Muscle twitching or 'tension'; muscular pain
  • Nausea &/or vomiting
  • Easily 'startled'; 'jumpy'
  • 'Tingling sensations' in various parts of the body
  • Urgency to urinate or defacate
  • Difficulty 'breathing'
  • Headache or 'tightness'
  • Irritabi lity; 'touchy'
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping or 'getting off to sleep'
  • Pre-existing illnesses such as 'asthma' may 'flare up'

Along with these presentations or 'experiences' one may also exhibit the following:


  • Becoming argumentative (particularly as it relates to the attempted avoidance of the cause for the anxiety)
  • Pessimism & negativity toward most situations
  • Irritability – constantly in a ‘bad mood’
  • Often seeking reassurance & asking many unnecessary questions in order to get this 
  • Social withdrawal – becoming a ‘bit of a loner’ or a reduction in social contacts
  • Reduction in interaction & conversation – pre-occupied & non-spontaneous 
  • Worried & constantly feeling ‘something bad is going to happen’
  • Becoming a bit of a perfectionist in attending to tasks – taking a lengthy time to complete due to the desire for it to be absolutely right
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Using Alcohol &/or Drugs to 'settle' your anxious feelings
  • You may even feel you are 'going mad' or 'crazy'
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) -Characterised by six (6) or more months of exaggerated 'worry' & tension that is 'unfounded' or more severe than 'normal' anxiety. Often described as a kind of ‘free floating’ anxiety; not focused or directed at any specific object or situation. People with this disorder often describe feeling anxious or fearful of ‘something’ but cannot specify or identify what it is. .
  • Panic Disorder -Physical symptoms such as trembling, shaking, confusion, dizziness, difficulty breathing, nausea & heart palpitations are common. Along with the physical manifestations are feelings of ‘impending doom’, intense terror & apprehension. A Panic Disorder is diagnosed when there have been several apparently spontaneous attacks which have lead to a persistent fear of future attacks.  
  • Social Anxiety Disorder - Also known as ‘social phobia’ or ‘Social Anxiety’, Social Anxiety Disorder can be described as ‘excessive anxiety in social situations causing relatively extreme distress & impaired ability to function in at least some areas of daily life’. It can be a ‘specific’ disorder (where it applies to a particular situation) or ‘generalised’. Examples of a ‘specific social anxiety’ would be a fear of public performance or public speaking (often referred to as ‘stage fright’), fear of writing in public or group situations such as sitting exams or the fear of using public toilets or restrooms. Another of the ‘Social Anxiety Disorders’ is that of being ‘love shy’. This affects many more men than women and results in the inability to form or initiate intimate relationships.
  • Post Taumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that occurs as the result of a traumatic experience. ‘Flashbacks’ are an integral component of PTSD. Other symptoms such as avoidant behaviour and ‘typical’ anxiety features also occur. One of the serious consequences for many afflicted by PTSD is the ‘self medicating’ that often occurs. Drugs & alcohol can temporarily ‘numb’ the anxiety and reduce the flashbacks. 
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder- This disorder has often been likened to ‘superstitions’, though is more fundamentally related to anxiety & the desire to avoid or diminish the levels of anxiety through ritualistic, repetitive & compulsive behaviours or acts. Obsessions refer to strong intrusive, repetitive and distressing thoughts or images that the individual very often acknowledges as being baseless and senseless. Compulsions refer to behaviour and the compulsion to repetitively perform something in order to relieve anxiety.   
  • Separation Disorder It can be defined as excessive & inappropriate levels of anxiety that resulting from the separation from an attachment figure or a person or place that provides comfort & security. Separation Anxiety Disorder is present in all age groups and surprisingly more common in adults (approximately 7%) than in children (around 4%). It should not be confused with ‘separation anxiety’, as can be seen when a child begins school for example.
  • Agoraphobiaa common complication of a ‘Panic Disorder’. The fear is of being caught in a situation or place from where you cannot get away without causing embarrassment or without great difficulty. It therefore results in avoidant behaviour such as not leaving the house, or not attending public functions or gatherings. Should a panic attack occur whilst shopping, at school or university or driving, the person suffering agoraphobia will avoid this situation or act in order to reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, the reduction in levels of anxiety only reinforces the behaviour and makes revisiting the situation even more difficult. 
  • Derealization or Depersonalization - These (either or both)  cause the individual to feel detached or divorced from the world around them or themselves. They describe life as like ‘being in a dream’; as if it were not real or hazy. They can even feel detached from their own bodies. Constant worrying & persistent ‘odd’ and pervasive thoughts are also symptoms that can be seen. It is more an outcome of anxiety as opposed to a ‘stand alone’ phenomenon. 
  • Phobias Phobias differ from ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ & ‘Panic Disorder’ in that there’s a specific stimulus or situation that elicits the strong fear response. The power of the Phobia can result in extreme avoidant actions & behaviour.People with phobias realize & identify their fears as irrational, excessive & unreasonable, though can do little to reduce their anxiety. People with Phobias generally have very powerful imaginations & can vividly anticipate the terrifying consequences of their feared object or situation. 

                                                    How to reduce 'Anxiety'

  • Relaxation techniques (such as - yoga, meditation, tai chi, controlled breathing, aromatherapy, music therapy.) 
  • Dietary changes 
  • Avoidance of stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, red bull etc.) 
  • Adequate sleep & rest 
  • Walking – for relaxation, not exercise 
  • Schedule time away in a peaceful location eg. country or beach 
  • Take the phone off the hook and turn off the mobile on occasion 
  • Engage in a relaxing sport or activity; free of competitiveness & not overly challenging. Such pursuits as fishing or golf. 
  • Read a book or watch a movie  

Important information

These are but some suggestions of what you might do to ‘wind down’ or reduce your stress & anxiety. If you find these do not meet your needs or you are unable to reduce your anxiety by their means, ensure you speak with your GP, &/or consider seeing a psychologist or counsellor who may be able to help.

Should medication be necessary, be mindful of the sedative effects it most probably has and the need to use in moderation & as directed by your doctor. Of serious concern is the possibility of a 'concurrent' depression. It is irrelevant 'which came first' (anxiety or depression); any type of 'agitated depression' or 'depression with features of anxiety' need attention by the appropriate professional.


Should you have concerns regarding any issue relating to your 'mental or physical well-being', 'Kick off' strongly recommend you seek professional assistance. This may entail contacting your GP or similar clinician (Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor etc.). You may also contact the appropriate agency or service that might assist you. Irrespective of your choice, ensure you see someone who might help. 

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